Zero Node: Chapter 16: "Pursuit of the Guano Islands Act"
by Jeff Rand
One cannot be sure that John Howey would engage in grave robbing, but as with most seasoned Winter Campers, such unusual behavior should be expected.
When Winter Camp was first held in 1977, the Mi-Gi-Si O-Paw-Gan Lodge was just 38 years old. Nobody local had been a part of the Order of the Arrow for so long, except Mr. Oatley. As a result, he had significant influence on the youth at the time, and his habits were well known. As an example, he wanted to get rid of the hyphens in the lodge name and spell it Migisi Opwagan. Years later, lodge leaders, less inclined to maintain tradition, did get rid of the hyphens but did not change the letter arrangement of "paw" to "pwa." This author, having nearly 50 years in the Order of the Arrow and recognizing the strong iconicity of the name, will use the proper spelling of Mi-Gi-Si O-Paw-Gan.
Mr. Oatley's notoriety among local Order of the Arrow members competed with that of the founder of the O-A, E. Urner Goodman and his assistant, Carroll A. Edson. Mr. Oatley preferred to refer to Nutiket, the guard in Order of the Arrow ceremonies, as "New-tea-kit." During the 1977 National Order of the Arrow conference, Edson said it was pronounced "New-ta-kit" in a small gathering where Mr. Oatley was present. This did not please Mr. Oatley. Therefore, a knife fight between his virtual character and the virtual Goodman seemed appropriate.
The title of the chapter refers to E. Urner Goodman and the lack of knowledge of his first name. Who would to refer to him as Edward when his middle name is in such common use?
November 9, 2019
Need a refresher? Here's the Another Ten Seconds chapter
Whenever any citizen of the United States discovers a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other Government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other Government, and takes peaceable possession thereof, and occupies the same, such island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the President, be considered as appertaining to the United States.
Leu spent little time getting re-acquainted with Mr. Donohue. That opportunity would come in the days ahead. Instead he returned to the small sail and his navigation aids. Considering the utter devastation to structures on the surface of the earth, it was remarkable that global positioning satellites continued in their orbits receiving and sending signals. The Clearwater now had a new course, one that would take it nearly 2,500 miles due south.
Steve was all too happy to visit with the others, but the sun would set soon, and there were logistics to address. Michaela warmed some soup to accompany a dinner of canned musk ox meat. Accommodations would be tight in the small cabin. They decided to sleep in two shifts. Leu and his father joined Steve for the first shift. Considering Steve's experiences surviving on the raft, this would be luxury.
Over the next few days the Clearwater crew developed a routine that surprised Steve. Although he was not yet 15, Leu indeed acted as captain of the ship. He had a true sense of purpose and a focus on a destination. In the brief conversations he permitted with the new passenger, Leu described his interest in surveying and navigation. This interest stretched back to his early years when he learned that Michigan under the Northwest Ordinance played a special role in the history of geography. It was then that he discovered his hometown of Lansing had once housed the Surveyor's Museum. He recalled fondly visiting the Meridian-Baseline State Park near his home. It is only right that Leu would sail the Clearwater to the meridian and baseline of the earth.
Michaela assumed the role of first officer looking out for the welfare of the crew. However, she had a difficult task addressing their needs with their remaining provisions, having lost much in the typhoon. When she learned of Steve's culinary experiences serving as the chef at Camp Conestoga, she decided to approach him with a request, "Steve, I understand you have experience serving as the chef at a Scout camp. Would you be willing to do the same for the Clearwater crew?"
"That was 45 years ago," responded Steve. "I'm happy with your work. I, I ugh … just remembered that Jeff is supposed to call me at 2:00 on July 31, 2036 regarding the bread deliveries to camp. Now, I don't think it will happen."
"Oh, that explains it," said Michaela, now excited. "We found a note in the time capsule. It read 'Steve Donohue will not forget Camp Conestoga and bread from Bake Schaller.'"
Steve continued, "It does not surprise me that Jeff would go to such lengths to remind me and my descendants. I bet if he were writing a novel, he find a subtle way to include it."
"Well Steve, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we have a few days food supply left. The bad news is that we lost most of our cooking fuel in the storm and ran out yesterday. Also, the reverse osmosis system was destroyed, which allowed us to desalinate the seawater."
"After my recent experiences, having any food and shelter is a luxury," said Steve, and he gladly accepted his new duties.
Ethan and Keith, though happy to let their offspring assume responsibilities, did not abdicate their roles in keeping their charges alive. Much of their time was devoted to fishing and designing a mechanism to collect rainwater.
The ocean stayed calm during the next three days and the skies remained clear. With the water supply depleted, the five aboard the Clearwater were forced to drink the few extra ounces of liquid in their depleting supply of canned food, some of which expired in the last century. Finally, the rains returned to their delight.
On the second day of rain, the winds increased and the ocean waves rolled over the sides of the boat. However, Leu was not deterred in keeping to the course. Keith kept watch to the starboard looking into the wind and waves. He noticed a barrel floating just a hundred feet away being thrashed by the waves. Leu was able to stop the boat as the barrel approached. Steve identified it as pontoon from his raft. There was nothing else and no sign of Jeff.
It was a challenge for Leu to continue on the southerly course and the going was slow. Yet, with their navigational aids and chart they were able to reach Kure Atoll. Once they landed, Keith was quick to point out that they had reached Honolulu. The Kure Atoll was actually considered part of the city, although the Island of Oahu was a thousand miles away.
The small spit of land was mostly barren but covered with booties, which had built their nests using the plentiful guano on the atoll. After many days at sea, there was little of value on the island. Yet, Ethan proceeded to collect the driest deposits of guano with the hopes of using it as a fuel source.
Keith directed their reluctant captain to change course and head east to Midway, less than 50 miles away. When they arrived on Midway, Keith and the others were surprised to find structures still standing, although abandoned for several years. The enjoyed some shelter off the boat for a couple days. Although there was no liquid fuel to be found, they were able to collect some firewood and some metal to fashion a cooking stove on the Clearwater. Ethan and Leu failed to find a larger mast but were able to scrounge some material to enlarge the sail. Steve and Michaela were pleased to find some canned food. They had been surviving on rainwater and the fish they caught.
Perhaps Midway would be true to its name as the small group set sail for the equator. Certainly they hoped that next half of the trip would proceed without incident.
After a dinner of fresh fish and decades old beans, Steve asked Michaela to tell him more of the events occurring in the real world outside of neural virtual reality. She was all too happy to oblige, but the conversation turned quickly to Winter Camp.
True, Winter Camp L really did happen, and Steve was there celebrating a record of attending all 50. Although most activities were conducted in the virtual world, she assured him that there were real events at D-bar-A.
Steve recalled the exciting events, starting with Winter Camp LI. It was as if the first fifty were practice exercises for the thrills and adventures ahead. Michaela let him pause for a moment in his thoughts before reminding him that he did not really attend Winter Camp Fifty-One or Fifty-Two or Fifty-Three. They were simply fake virtual experiences.
Michaela proceeded to describe the real Winter Camp LI. She served as youth leader and her father assumed the adviser's role. Ethan attended and helped administer the activities. Leu visited the event, having no place else to go, but was not yet a member of the Order of the Arrow. Several outdoor events, including a blind hike, were conducted in the former Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Indoor activities found a place in the ruins of Creighton. In December 2027, every institution created by man no longer existed, except one. Winter Camp would not die!
Leu became a Lone Scout and proceeded to work through the various ranks under the guidance of his Lone Scout counselor and father, Ethan. By June 2028, he had earned the rank of First Class and elected himself to the Order of the Arrow. His ordeal was held in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior. Lacking enough youth, adults had to take two speaking parts in the ceremony, the chieftain and medicine man. They did not have anyone to serve as the guard, but Michaela was still of youth age to serve as the guide, Kitchkinet.
Appropriately, Winter Camp LII was held in the ruins of the town of Mafeking, Manitoba. The newest member and now the only youth, Louis Rein served as leader with his three adult advisors. Winter Camp LIII had some interesting events on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk, Yukon Territory.
Winter Camp LIV commenced at the shack in Yakutsk, Siberia. There was a bit of rush to get it started and a desire to extract Steve and Jeff from the NVR center. On the second day of Winter Camp LIV, the participants proceeded to the Yakutsk NVR center to free the two Winter Camp pioneers. Unfortunately, Keith and Ethan were captured and unable to return to the shack. Michaela and Leu were able to bring Steve and Jeff to the shack, but the pair did not wake. Although these two Winter Camp pioneers were not conscious, they were actually present at Winter Camp LIV for the opening of the time capsule. Shortly thereafter, Michaela and Leu had to leave to rescue their fathers.
Finally Steve spoke, "I am happy that I was present at 54, but saddened to know I actually missed 51, 52, and 53. Jeff and I were engaged in the virtual Winter Camp LIV for its start before we left the NVR Center. Looking back, I can say the activities were beyond belief."
Michaela finished her update of the Scouting events with an important addition, "You should know that Leu just finished the requirements to become an Eagle Scout and will be pleased if you present his award."